Beware Of Backlash On Reforms, India Tells WTO Members

New Delhi, July 30: | Updated: Jul 31 2003, 05:30am hrs
India has cautioned the World Trade Organisation members of a backlash in developing nations if the pace of economic reforms being undertaken autonomously is seen to be forced under dictates from outside.

Arun Shourie: Warning note
Articulating Indias point of view at the three-day informal meeting of trade ministers, being hosted by Canada in Montreal, on Tuesday, disinvestment minister Arun Shourie emphasised that if the pace of economic reforms was such as to cause dislocation or to be perceived as an imposition from outside, then there could be a backlash which could set back the whole process of multilateral trade negotiations. Stick to the Doha text and be cautious in moving forward, was his message to the meeting being attended by 24 member-countries.

The minister stressed the importance of agriculture as Indias key concern in the WTO negotiations, in particular food security and the livelihood security of the vast number of people dependent on agriculture.

Referring to the proposed special products of interest to developing countries, he said the selection of such products must be on the basis of self-declaration given that it was not possible to have multilaterally agreed criteria applicable across-the-board to all countries.

No IPO Policy In Selloff: Jaitley

New Delhi: Government on Wednesday said it had not decided to adopt a policy of issuing initial public offers (IPOs) instead of strategic sale of equity to privatise public sector units. However, it approved a disinvestment strategy including both IPOs and strategic sale as was appropriate depending on specific requirements in each case, commerce and industry minister Arun Jaitley said during question hour. PTI

Mr Shourie pointed out that there were about 35 crops in India on each of which around five million were dependent and more than 25 crops with an area of over one million hectare each. The special products would need to be combined with special safeguard measures with suitable trigger mechanism in terms of both import volume and price in order to protect the interests of farmers.

There should also be reduction in trade distorting agricultural subsidies without the camouflage of shifting boxes and the key issue of non-tariff barriers which hindered exports from developing countries should be adequately addressed, he said.

Participating in the session on non-agricultural market access, he said that while India was in broad agreement with the Girard formula (which recognises the need for differentiation and suggests certain elements for developing modalities for the negotiations), there were several sensitive sectors which would need continued higher levels of protection.

He mentioned in particular the sensitivities of small-scale and cottage industries, agricultural products like natural rubber, jute and coir which had crept into the industrial goods during the Uruguay Round despite having all the characteristics of primary agriculture products and lastly the categories of industries which had not yet fully stabilised in the country.

In the session on development, Mr Shourie reiterated the importance of implementation of special and differential treatment issues and underlined the need to achieve some results in this area before Cancun, and preparing a clear roadmap for dealing with these issues beyond Cancun.